This week, I show one of my art journals in the video and share ideas for what to create from messy backgrounds.
After a painting session, there’s usually some leftover paint on a palette. I try to squeeze the tubes carefully, and sometimes I put the paint in a box with a lid, but most often, I grab an art journal and wipe off the extra paint from the brushes and palette. If I am tired, I just spread the paint carelessly. If I still have energy, I add details to a page that already has some color. When I don’t like something in the next session, I paint new strokes over it.
Many Rounds – Some Quicker than Others
I rarely make a page at one go. This spread has oil paints, and it took ages to finish it. But it didn’t matter, because I was practicing for the class Decodashery, and I needed time to dig into the heart of decorative painting style.
However, the one below is more abstract, and it was really quick!
Messy Backgrounds and Beyond – Watch the Video!
In the video, I show messy pages and not so messy pages of my current art journal and how I finished the spread above. Watch the video!
Even if bigger paintings are my main work, art journal pages are an important part of my creative process. It’s like yin and yang! I need the mess-making to find joy in working with details.
Art Inspired by Music
In the video, I mentioned the idea of visualizing a musical landscape and a melody. Music is the theme in my mini-course for Gratitude Junk Journal 2020 as well. This online workshop has 12 instructors, and it begins on Nov 1st, 2020. Register in October to get 20% off. Enter JOY2020 at checkout. >> Buy Here!
This week, I have a new miniature painting and share tips for making small-sized paintings in general.
Let me introduce Ebony, my newest miniature painting! It’s only 10 cm x 10 cm (4 inches x 4 inches). The size shows better in the photo below.
This is an oil painting, and it took over a month from start to finish, but just because I let each layer dry properly. There’s about a week drying time between each layer. If you use acrylic paints or watercolors, the process is much quicker!
The Beginning – Making Not So Beautiful Mess
As usual, I didn’t have any particular idea for the painting when I started. Here’s how the painting looked after a couple of layers.
My surface here is Ampersand Gessoboard Panel. It’s very smooth and thus suitable for small details. I had bought a pack of four over a year ago. I finished the first one last year, see this blog post!
When making an abstract mess, I don’t usually settle for pretty little messes, but make the mess more layered. When the mess is as ugly as I can bare, it begins to talk to me. It came to my mind, that the random strokes could be mane, and there could be a horse coming up.
Using Negative Painting to Dig Out the Spirit
I like to use negative painting a lot. So here, I painted the background first so that it defined the head of the horse. When painting the surroundings, you slowly get closer to the actual spirit. It’s like taming a wild animal!
I still have two more panels to finish. I think I will dig out horses or other animals from their messes so that I get a small series of miniature paintings.
My Four Tips for Painting in Miniature
Start boldly and enjoy all kinds of mark-making and color play. If you are painting on paper, you can start with a bigger piece, and then cut it into smaller ones.
Make a few big shapes that contain smaller ones. In my painting, the horse is one big shape, the background another. Let smaller shapes break the borders of the bigger shapes so that the image doesn’t look stiff.
The negative painting technique where you paint the surroundings of the shape enables you to paint delicate shapes easily. Magical Forest is the class to take for mastering this technique!
We hold miniature pieces quite close when looking at them, so the quality of brushwork matters. Use thin paint, small brushes and even magnifiers if needed. Taking photos and zooming them helps to see the details too. Decodashery is the class to take for making the best out of every stroke!
Of course, your miniature artwork doesn’t have to be a painting, but a drawing! For me, drawing has been in a significant role in becoming a better painter. It can be just free drawing like in Inspirational Drawing, or more intentional practice like in Animal Inkdom and Magical Inkdom. I use both approaches in painting too.
I hope you enjoyed this week’s project. Do you like painting or drawing in small size?
I visited the Finnish Glass Museum a couple of weeks ago, so this piece felt really inspiring again! Let’s dive deeper into how I changed it.
Tip #1 – Cure the White Spot Fever
Back in 2014, I had fallen in love with all kinds of white pens, paints, and correction fluids. A little dot here, another there, and the element looked prettier. But adding dots and spots also make the piece busier. For the viewer, it’s like trying to find its way through crowded streets where everyone is trying to get the attention: “Hey, hey, hey, you there, look at me!”
When you are a doctor for the white spot fever, start by toning down all the spots that are located near the edges. We want to steer the eye to the middle first, so the edges don’t have to be so eye-catching. If this is the first time you work on this job, watercolors can be a good choice. Even if the pigment wouldn’t stick on all the surfaces, you get the impression of how the piece looks if you make the edges less noticeable. Turn the piece upside down, so that it’s easier to focus on the task, and not look at the big picture.
Of course, your pieces can have fever, even if it’s not the white spot fever. The general advice for any fever is to remove all the eye-catching small elements that are located near the edges.
Tip #2 – Form Friendships between Elements
Often when we don’t feel connected with the image, the image itself doesn’t express connection. When the elements are floating separately, there can be a lonely undertone in the whole piece. On the other hand, if there is no contrast between the elements, the image can look busy no matter how connected the elements are.
Here are my two versions side by side. In the old version, there are big glass jars, but the contrast between them is not very clear. There are a lot of small shapes that are floating lonely.
At best, adding connections make the image to deliver a message. When I looked at my piece, it was unclear to me what it was about. In the old blog post, I had written: “It’s about parents trying to protect their children. The parents have good intentions, and they do their best, but in the end, they have to let the child step into the world. I have painted two glass vases to represent the parents. The child sees the world through the parents, and even if they want to protect the child, they are fragile too.”
But now, I found the element that looked like jaws most intriguing. It seemed to be a rising spirit, a small but powerful baby dragon, which only needed a neck to become a central element.
I used dark india inks and black pen to quickly sketch how I would connect the elements, and then continued the work with acrylics and lighter colors. I broke the biggest jar near the edge to two jars so that they won’t compete with the focal point so much.
Tip #3 – Make a Highway for the Viewer
Busy pieces often have so many paths for the eye that it’s not clear where to start and how to continue. The best thing is to be clear and make a highway that goes around the image. The viewer can then take smaller scenic routes around the details, but there’s always the big safe road to return to that leads to the main attractions.
Building a highway requires that you know what your main elements are. After finding the spirit of the jar, I made the red circle communicate with it. Now I added a couple of white spots so that it looks like there’s a voice or a reflection flying between the two. So there’s use for those white dots, just use them sparingly and near the places where you want to lead the eye!
With turquoise tones, I painted a route from the right bottom corner to the two central elements. I also added more depth to the image by painting shadows. Shadows would be my fourth tip, but it’s worth a separate post, so I will get back to it sometimes later.
No More Busy Mixed Media!
I named the revamped version as “Song of Glass” because it’s now about finding the singing spirit of the silent jars.
I hope you found this post helpful for busy mixed media pieces. See my classes for more handy tips and advice!
There’s a lot of talk about finding your artistic voice, but very little about how other people affect it. So this week, I share a story about my mother and her influence on my art.
Painting the Same Thing Again and Again
A couple of days ago, I was on a morning walk near my home in Southern Finland. The air was fresh as well as the view, dominated by the blue sky and white clouds. My beagles’ busy noses and a glimmering brook followed a sown field that had already started to green. Both birds and earphones fed entertaining listening. But all I could think of was my painting. Was it finished? Should I add more color to the flowers? What else did I need to adjust to make most of the tens of hours? I was alone with my dogs, but the inner critic kept me company: what kind of artist doesn’t even know the meaning of her images?
Yes, I am no artist at all. I paint white flowers, the easiest anyone can imagine, and the worst that my mother knew. “No white flowers,” she repeated to my father when her wedding anniversary came close, and he was about to buy a bouquet. “White flowers mean death.” And now, long after she has passed away, all I want to paint is white flowers.
Commenters are Your Art Coaches
Rebelling had no place in my upbringing during the 1970s and 1980s. As a teenager, I tried to respond to my mother’s corrections and criticism with an ignorant smile. Not for long. She didn’t hesitate to tell that it wasn’t a proper reaction. She was both a direct and shy person. Her presence was almost invisible in public gatherings, but at home, in her empire, she was the master of rights and wrongs. So when I showed drawings to her, she either approved or disapproved. She didn’t talk to me as directly as to my father – what to do or what not – but her words and facial expressions told everything.
My mother was like a strict gymnastic coach with high expectations, but she lacked one essential skill – the ability to show how the tricks could be done. She was as honest to herself as to anyone in this matter and put her energy for finding time, supplies, and art education for me. Time to create was the easiest part. My mother was a housewife. She had left her job at a young age right after she got married. She didn’t want her daughters to have the same destiny, so she did her best to keep me out of the kitchen and constantly reminded me how children would prohibit me from doing what I love.
We lived in a small town near the Russian border, and our family wasn’t wealthy. The only income came from my father’s pension. In the evenings, my mother wrote all the expenses on a small black book. But purchasing pens and paper was mandatory. To her, it was the lowest level of civilization, more important than books. Our town had one bookshop that sold some supplies, but after we got more knowledge from local art groups and competitions, it became evident that I needed a better and broader selection. So every month, when my parents drove to a bigger town, I was often with them, selecting paper, paint boards, crayons, and acrylic paints from a real art supply store.
A Praised Piece Sticks into Your Mind
When I was some years over ten, in one spring morning, I decided to try out a new set of crayons. It was just a warm-up, a quick landscape without using any reference. “Look, mother, what do you think,” I said like so many times before. She looked at the image, tightened her lips, but unlike her, she didn’t say much. Later, when I opened a narrow kitchen closet to pick an iron, I stopped. The landscape was taped inside the wooden door. “I like to look at it,” she said after seeing my puzzled face.
I was devastated. That little landscape didn’t deserve the place. So many times I had poured my heart out on paper and soon found out that it wasn’t to her liking. And now – I didn’t even color all the paper!
Finding the Why Behind Your Artistic Voice – Connecting the Appraisals and Repetitions
Fortunately, my mother was not the only one commenting on my art. My two big sisters had different opinions, and my teachers and friends as well. One piece didn’t satisfy them all, but there were always kind words from someone. It encouraged me to keep painting and drawing, as everyone, especially my mother, expected.
After my mother’s death, one stormy weekend, I traveled to the childhood home to pick things that I wanted to keep before we would sell it. The house was cold, but I knew it was the last time when I would see it like it used to be. Everything was clean and tidy. Performing tasks effectively with high quality had always fascinated my mother. “If I could choose what my profession was, it would be a researcher of work – if such a profession existed.”
When I got up the stairs to an attic, the sight would surprise anyone but me. The attic had always been nearly empty. In one corner, under a sloped sealing, my father had built a small closet for safe storage. I opened its little door, and there they were, neatly in a big cardboard box – my paintings and drawings. Not all, but a collection that my mother had curated over the years, the little crayon drawing included.
So a few days ago, when I was walking by the field and looking up in the sky, my mother came to me in the form of the freshly colored landscape. I now knew that my urge to paint white flowers hadn’t been an act against my mother, but a yearn for her acceptance that blank white blobs had once given to me. Now my question is: can I let go of them, or do I want to keep her in my art forever.
Who has influenced your art? Can you recognize how?